Road Transport Amendment (National Facial Biometric Matching Capability) Bill 2018

(Bills - Second Reading Debate, Legislative Assembly, Parliament House)

I speak to the Road Transport Amendment (National Facial Biometric Matching Capability) Bill 2018, one of the bills that is cognate with the Surveillance Devices Amendment (Statutory Review) Bill 2018.

My contribution will focus on concerns about the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, which will have far-reaching implications for personal and civil liberties, rights and privacy. This important issue calls for due consideration and widespread consultation but the Road Transport Amendment (National Facial Biometric Matching Capability) Bill 2018 was introduced only last week as part of cognate legislation in an extensive legislative program. Further, the details of the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability do not lie in this legislation but I understand that the Minister for Home Affairs of Australia will have some discretion. Members have not had a proper briefing on the system and there has been little public discussion about this capability or how data on people will be used.

Some say that in the era of social media, privacy is no longer an issue or a concern for people and governments should use all the data available to them for enforcement and administration. In my opinion that view is wrong. One need only look to the public outcry about My Health Record to realise that the community is worried about their privacy and how their records will be shared. While it may not be the case, most people at least think the information they provide on social media is curated by them, and it is not the responsibility of governments to take advantage of the data it collects on citizens and use it for any purpose without their permission. The community broadly accepts that collecting, sharing and matching identity information to deal with terrorism or serious criminal activity that puts the public at risk is justified, but this capability will cover more than just data on suspects. The wider public is captured and their data can be shared and matched. Unidentified facial images can be linked to massive facial recognition databases. With the widespread use of closed-circuit television [CCTV], which is installed across the inner city where my constituents live, images of people in public places can be linked to photo identification records held by the Government. Governments are continually telling us that we have nothing to fear because they would never misuse personal data. But we must legislate for any future government that may not respect human rights. Countries that engage in surveillance often target people who protest or show dissent against a regime and we should not complacently assume that this could never happen here. There will always be governments that want to strengthen and expand the surveillance of citizens to promote their own agenda under the guise of safety.

Law enforcement authorities habitually push for greater access to private data and information to help them do their job and will likely call to increase the capability to include less serious crimes and public nuisances. Over the past two decades governments have been all too willing to erode basic human rights in the name of law, order and safety. We do not know how the data will be used and people applying for a driver licence or identity card will have no idea that their information and images will be stored for unrelated purposes. That does not sit well with me. The bill lacks any safeguards to ensure that matching capabilities are used only in very serious crimes that threaten public safety and instead provides governments with flexibility to practise mass surveillance. There is no oversight of the process despite its capacity to impinge on public and personal rights. The House must not dismiss concerns about human rights and privacy as paranoia.

The slow withering away of civil liberties can change our society. Increasing the surveillance of citizens often corresponds to an erosion of democracy and basic rights such as the freedom of speech and the freedom of movement. The bill is more than a new tool in security with its capacity to subject the population to surveillance. That is of great concern and the legislation should be deferred to educate the community about what is being proposed and to conduct widespread and meaningful consultation.